Can This Chess Skill Improve Your Leadership?

Chess is not the easiest game to play.

Chess also isn’t the easiest game to teach someone else how to play.

I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to teach the fundamentals of chess to my nine year old daughter, Miranda.

What’s particularly challenging is explaining the idea of long term thinking.

Miranda gets how the pieces move on the board.

It’s the thinking two steps ahead that she’s not getting yet.  She doesn’t see how the current move will impact the next move, and the ones after that.She is constantly surprised when her computer opponent captures a piece that she hadn’t considered was at risk.  In fact, she yells at the computer, “Don’t Do That!”

Her elegant solution: to start playing two-player chess against herself.She decides which side should win.  Then,  she plays out the game accordingly.  Funny enough, she manages to “win” each of those games.

The ability to think about the consequences down the road isn’t confined to kids and a chessboard.Now, more than ever, strategic thinking is a vital leadership skill.

Why is it so important?  In our volatile and fast past world, people have to be more nimble and flexible to respond to greater demands.  They have to anticipate not just the next move, but the moves down the road–and do so quickly.

Agility has become a buzzword with many of my corporate clients in the last year.   Innovation is being pushed out to the front lines and more and more people are having to understand the bigger picture.

For example, this past week, I was working with a group of Project Managers (PMs) in the financial services industry.  Their entire business model is being overhauled, and their roles as PMs are changing drastically.Rather than direct a linear project plan, they now have to be co-creative facilitators with all their stakeholders.

One of their biggest challenges is being constantly bombarded with requests for information, such as:

  • What is the new scope?

  • What resources have changed?

  • How have the regulations changed?

They get so many queries a day, it’s hampering their ability to get anything else done.However, the PMs say this shouldn’t be happening.  These queries are coming from people who report into other stakeholders on the project team.  Stakeholders who already have been brought up to speed.

They’re just not sharing the info.The PMs realized they weren’t thinking two steps ahead.  In their project meetings, they’re not explicitly telling the team how crucial it is to pass on information.In our perpetually busy lives, it’s easy to stay focused on the move at hand.

Thinking two steps ahead may be just the thing to help you find some extra breathing room.

What techniques do you use to think strategically?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Leave a Comment

Connect with Alain


I am interested in...
(please select all options that apply)*

I can be reached at...

What would you like Alain to know about your role and/or organization, and what you'd like to achieve?